Call of Juarez: Gunslinger Review
Call of Juarez is a name which is sure to stir up mixed emotions. The initial entry and Bound in Blood may bring up fond memories of laying waste in the West for some, whereas The Cartel creates cringe-worthy reminders. Needless to say, Techland’s Call of Juarez franchise has been a mixed bag, typically failing to achieve its true potential. Techland is hoping to change that with their smaller, downloadable title Call of Juarez: Gunslinger. The digital game ditches The Cartel‘s modern setting and returns to the Wild West, where it belongs and ushers in a new gunslinger, Silas Greaves.
Is Techaland’s latest Old West tale worth telling? Let’s find out what’s HOT and what’s NOT in our review of Call of Juarez: Gunslinger.
Strong Wild West Narrative
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger tells the tale of Silas Greaves. In fact, Silas himself narrates his own story as he recounts his revenge and justice-filled ventures through varied lands to eager listeners surrounding him. It’s a narrative that is enjoyable for two reasons: First, Wild West icons such as Billy the Kid appear and spruce up the tall tale. Second, Silas remembers details or corrects himself part way through his stories, leading to instantaneous changes in the environment and enemies. For example, at one point the player is facing off against a bunch of Apache Indians standing atop a canyon shooting down at Silas. He then corrects a misunderstanding and says that he was facing off against bandits that were fighting APACHE style. This leads to the Apache Indians disappearing one by one as they are replaced by the bandits. The ever-changing narrative leads to other interesting moments, such as routes appearing as Silas remembers them or entire sections of levels rewinding as the “true” version is told. The story gets the job done and it’s engaging enough, but don’t expect more complex titles like Red Dead Redemption to be dethroned.
Stylized Arcade Action
Gunslinger revitalizes arcade shooters with its subtly cell-shaded visuals, exaggerated headshot effects and smooth gunplay. It brings the dual-wielding gunslinging beloved by fans from older Call of Juarez with the added touch of insanity of kill multipliers and trick shots. However, you won’t be restricted to firing off two revolvers simultaneously if that isn’t your style. There are three skill trees in which the player can invest accrued skill points, all promoting a different play style. There’s your dual-wielding revolver specialist; the hawkeye rifleman; and the shotgun-toting, close-quarters king. Each cylinder-styled skill path offers up new weapons and new abilities. Working through the close-quarter skills opens up a special Silver Shotgun as well as the ability to dual-wield sawed-off shotguns (and the pair makes quite the impact). Whether you like picking off enemies from afar or closing the distance quickly with buckshot, the choice is yours and the game will award you accordingly.
The arcade style is rather addictive, as you find new ways to dispatch the opposition. Sure, there’s your standard (and satisfying) headshot, but you can spice things up with some tossed dynamite and a well placed shot. Gunslinger rewards for taking risks, and you’ll need to if you want to nab another kill before the multiplier timer runs out. In order to balance things in the player’s favor, Silas has a few helpful tricks up his sleeve. Not a stranger to the series, slow motion can be enabled once the concentration meter has filled up. This highlights enemies in red and slows down enemies, giving Silas a chance to line up his shots and take everyone out with little worry regarding his personal health. We’ve seen bullet time mechanics many times over the years, but it still manages to be impactful and entertaining again. Silas’ other, and more unique, ability is his chance at literally avoiding death. If the skull meter is full and an enemy fires the killing shot at Silas, the world will slow down to a crawl as the bullet flies toward the screen (AKA Silas’ face). The player must then either left or right using the analog stick to dodge the projectile. This action can be later upgraded to allow a lock-on headshot opportunity on your attacker following a successful dodge. These mechanics come together to create a memorable experience and they definitely put the “wild” in Wild West.